Nigeria’s population faces significant nutritional shortfalls, according to the 2016 Food Sustainability Index published today by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Nigeria is ranked second last out of 25 countries, below Ethiopia and Indonesia, for the nutritional health of its population.
One-third of Nigerian children under five are “stunted”, meaning they suffer reduced physical growth due to inadequate nutrition. “Hidden hunger”—a deficiency of micronutrients—is also a problem. Nigeria ranks 23rd out of 25 countries surveyed for vitamin A deficiency, with a prevalence of 29.5%. Nutrient deficiencies delay mental development in infants, reducing their ability to learn in later life, with a knock on-effect on school performance.
Nutritional problems are particularly acute in the north-east, where over 3 million Nigerians are in urgent food crisis due to the conflict between Boko Haram insurgents and the army.
Nigeria scores more positively for its agricultural sector, with high scores for water management and for investment in transport infrastructure, which can reduce food losses.
“Despite major nutrition challenges, Nigeria has huge potential for improving health outcomes of its population through policies and nutritional programmes. There is also room for improvement in terms of agricultural sustainability, especially ensuring that land ownership for smallholders is respected and enforced, which would incentivise farmers to invest in more sustainable farming practices that would safeguard soil quality and preserve water resources”, says Maria-Luiza Apostolescu, the index research manager. “Addressing these challenges will make a major contribution to Nigeria’s efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals since nutrition and agriculture influence so many social, environmental and economic factors”.